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THE DUTCH HOUSE, Ann Patchett
May's book of the month

Danny Conroy grows up in the Dutch House, a lavish mansion. Though his father is distant and his mother is absent, Danny has his beloved sister Maeve: Maeve, with her wall of black hair, her wit, her brilliance. Life is coherent, played out under the watchful eyes of the house’s former owners in the frames of their oil paintings. 

Then one day their father brings Andrea home. Though they cannot know it, her arrival to the Dutch House sows the seed of the defining loss of Danny and Maeve’s lives. The siblings are drawn back time and again to the place they can never enter, knocking in vain on the locked door of the past. For behind the mystery of their own exile is that of their mother’s: an absence more powerful than any presence they have known. 

BOOK CLUB Qs

Here are some questions to ponder over whilst reading. Make sure to check out our Facebook group to share your thoughts.

  • Danny asks Maeve, ‘do you think it’s possible ever to see the past as it actually was?’ Discuss the role of memory in the novel. To what extent have Danny and Maeve mythologised their childhoods? Are their memories re-shaped by what they understand as adults?
  • Danny is the narrator, but the main character is arguably Maeve. Why do you think Ann Patchett chose to tell the story this way, instead of letting Maeve narrate? What does Danny’s perspective bring that Maeve’s might not have?

  • Discuss the role of foreshadowing in the novel. Why, for instance, are the VanHoebeeks significant? And what can we make of the fact that Danny goes on to work in real estate and marry unsuccessfully, like his father?

 


FURTHER READING

 

 Commonwealth – Ann Patchett

The Green Road – Anne Enright

Unsheltered – Barbara Kingsolver 

Family Pictures – Sue Miller

Anything is Possible – Elizabeth Strout 

 

A Spool of Blue Thread – Anne Tyler 

Ask Again, Yes – Mary-Beth Keane

The Most Fun We Ever Had – Claire Lombardo 

Expectation – Anna Hope

Housekeeping – Marilynne Robinson

 

 

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MEMBERS' REVIEWS

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